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Review: The Taming of the Shrew at Tristan Bates Theatre

A turbulent ‘cue-script’ staging by Shake-Scene Shakespeare refreshingly galvanises this Elizabethan comedy

12 October, 2018 — By ERIN COBBY

Matthew Williams, left, and Jonathan McGarrity in The Taming of the Shrew. Photo: Nikki Wills

Shake-Scene Shakespeare’s production of The Taming of the Shrew injects new life into this 16th-century comedy by harking back to old techniques.

Reminiscent of an Elizabethan audience, patrons of the Tristan Bates Theatre are invited to laugh along with, and at, actors following a “cue-script” as they forget/invent their lines, performing their first run-through on opening night.

This approach galvanises the play’s comedic value, further confusing the acts of mistaken identity and duplicity which occur during the pursuit of demure Bianca (Nell Bradbury) and outspoken Katherina (Helen Rose-Hampton) through constant pauses and enthusiastic calls for “line!”, especially humorous from Eugenia Low and Robbie Capaldi.

This turbulence is optimal for Matt Williams, whose eccentric and over-sexualised portrayal of Petruchio often verges on fantastically erratic, screaming “good morrow” just after having been fed the line. He also best creates a sense of camaraderie between audience and actors by his arrival in a chicken suit, genuinely shocking all parties and creating a moment of true comedy.

While this device means that the performance brushes over some more controversial aspects of the play (Kate’s pleas against manipulative Petruchio are lost amongst laughter), the adaptation is both original and thoroughly enjoyable.

This casual approach to Shakespeare strips the language of its rarefied nature which, encouraged by a bare stage and modern dress, makes it a refreshingly accessible play.

Until October 13
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